I shared at the end of last year that one of my big goals for 2018 is running a sub-1:35 half marathon. I have not placed an exact timeline on that goal because running does not work that way – sometimes you made large steps, other times you chip away in small increments.
I’m signed up for the Snohomish Women’s Half Marathon in early May. I ran the 10K last year and really enjoyed the course, which is flat and scenic. Snohomish Running Company puts on fantastic events – well-organized, great spectator support, and really awesome swag. I’m hoping to swing a PR here, so my training starts in mid-February (an 11 week cycle, since 12 weeks falls during the week of Ash Wednesday and our ski trip to Bend).
Every big goal requires several small goals to build up to it. You can’t make giant leaps and bounds; you have to build a staircase and take small but steady steps up. These small steps include the training runs, but the contribution of the ancillary things such as nutrition and strength/mobility cannot be underplayed. These are a few of the small changes I am making to my training in 2018 to help me improve the little things as I train for a half marathon PR.
Whole Foods on Long Runs
I still will use gels for races, since gels are the easiest for me to carry and eat at race effort, and for gut training during the peak long runs of race training. But race day nutrition is different than training nutrition. While quickly delivered energy in low-volume easy-to-eat form is best for an all-out effort, whole foods provide a good option for those easy to moderate paced long runs.
I used to prefer only gels, but I’m shifting toward using gels only for racing. My palate fatigues easily on gels, while whole foods provide more novelty and variety. I find that I run best and feel best when there’s a tiny bit of fat in my mid-run fuel (my new go-to gel of choice is the Hammer Chocolate-Hazelnut, which has 20% of the calories from fat and provided an awesome boost during the final miles of California International Marathon). Whole foods let me easily eat more calories from fat on the run without fatiguing on a couple flavors of gels.
One of the many books I got for Christmas is Rocket Fuel and the recipes in it are enticing: maple banana chips, waffle bites, and granola bites, along with recipes for gels made with fruit and maple syrup. I am easing into the whole food fueling with Honey Stinger waffles, which have a good percentage of carbs and fat. I broke one into pieces for this weekend’s 10 mile run (I was hungry at the start of the run, so I opted to fuel), ate about two-thirds of it, and felt great on the run.
After reading ROAR, I realized that I do need some carbohydrates in my sports drink to aid in sodium absorption – especially since I’ve had a problem with dehydration and electrolyte imbalance before. I enjoy Enduropacks for before and after a run, but during I want to experiment with this in my training (especially since most races provide Nuun). I’ve had good luck with taking Nuun at races, especially at CIM this year when they offered Nuun Performance. My plan is to take Nuun Performance on long runs to help with hydration and fueling.
Improve Shoulder and Hip Mobility
While I am not a believer in an ideal running form, I know that poor shoulder mobility can impair one’s unique optimum form. When I fatigue in a race or workout, I swing my arms in front of my torso (see: the end of the CIM last year). I deal with tightness in my shoulders and upper back after a hard or long run.
Before I can even tackle more upper body strength, I need to improve my mobility through targeted stretching, mobility exercises, and self-release. Jonathan Beverly’s Your Best Stride has been a helpful resource in determining the best course of action for improving my shoulder mobility.
For hip mobility, I want to incorporate more Pilates and targeted stretching into my routine. My hips aren’t as immobile as my shoulders, but there is certainly room for improvement.
Eat More Protein
I have a tendency to reach for carbs and fats, especially at breakfast and lunch. I know I should be eating more protein, but there’s a gap between what I know I should be doing and what I choose to eat. I can easily eat all my fruits and vegetables, but for some reason, my protein intake can be lower than optimal, especially for my running goals.
I made it a goal this year to eat more protein at breakfast and lunch, especially after hard workouts. Eggs, nut butter, beans, and quinoa are my go-to lunch options, along with meat if we have leftovers. I’m also aiming to eat some Greek yogurt within 30 minutes of strength workouts or hard runs, rather than waiting an hour or more until I cool down, stretch, and cook.
What small things are you working on to help you achieve your goals?
Do you fuel with whole foods on long runs? What do you eat?